Re: Playing with and against a Nil in Spades

how to bid nil in spades

When someone is going Nil in spades, many of the strategies and responsibilities change.  Through playing I wanted to review some of the things I have found. Bidding nil in spades is a unique aspect of this card game, and I personally appreciate the extra layer of skills and consideration required.  If there is a common theme, it is a two-way street – with both parties trying to do opposing things to the Nil in Spades.  There are many players who will complain about how a decent percentage of people are not playing the game with the Nil in mind. 

Playing against a Nil.

Figure out what suits they have, and play some low cards from it.  Force the other partner to save your spades partner.  I sometimes try to throw out my high spades early and get the books from them when I am not giving the Nil a free pass.  This, when bidding conservatively, leaves an opening late game that your opponent may win(lose) a hand with a weak Spade.

Suit Tells with a Nil

Nil players typically have an excess of a suit, not Spades.  This is because it will help them manage risk if you have the Ace of Clubs, You will find that out when you are playing a suit.  Example: You throw out the second round of Clubs, and they have already cut the deck with a Heart.  When/if you win that trick, now you can attempt to throw out a low Heart, hope your teammate throws out a low Heart, and there is the potential they have the highest card left.  I recently lost this way, winning a trick bidding Nil with a 6 of Hearts (aka Badass 6).

Remember if you miss your books maybe you will lose 70 points, but they will lose 100 off of the 1 person.  This is where some of the strategy goes in, yes you want to rack up points to compete but you also want to ensure you can sacrifice a trick to turn their +100 to -99.  

Playing with a Nil

One of your key responsibilities is to not set up the Nil for failure.  One of the big mistakes is to throw out your low card, knowing you will not win a hand.  

blind nil in spades

In case you can’t read this picture: My teammate just won a trick and threw out a 2 of Hearts to start the round.  Notice my lowest Heart is a 6, which means if this round will be successful is completely up to the opposite team aka we lost all control.  The Ace of Hearts was an awful move and saved me, but a competent player is not giving me the luxury of playing the Ace.


When you throw out that 2 of Diamonds because your Jack won’t win, you are giving the other team the option to play to lose that trick and ruin your Nil.  This consideration should go into your bidding process, recognize you will have to play to lose hands – forcing your opponent to play their high cards.

If you cannot read this example, throwing out the Ace allows me to throw out my highest Diamond.  This helps with preventing future risk pf preserving nil.

Play your high spades early.  I understand you want your Ace to ensure their King will not win, but you are better off ensuring your Ace will ensure your teammates Jack does not win.  Pick your battles.  

When you find out what suits that your Nil partner does not have, try to play those cards heavily.  This will allow them to thin out the strongest cards on their deck with no stress.  You should assume they do not have over 3 Spades, so anticipate this being one of the most thoughtful ways to help.

Example: How Would I make this hand Nil? (Bidding First)

how to bid nil in spades

Here is the hand is given, and forever reason I need a Nil to win and cannot bid 2-3, how do I make this happen?  I am bidding first in this example.

  • The Ace is a big concern, especially because I only have 3 Cubs
  • The Queen of Spades is a big concern, it’s a high ranking card
  1. I only have 2 Diamonds, so I will pay the 4 of Diamonds first.  If I feel bold I will play the Queen of Diamonds and if it succeeds my life is much better.  Once the third Diamond gets played, I can throw out my Ace of Spades
  2. Enjoy all the hearts being throw out
  3. Hoping that the Ace of Spades gets played early by my teammate

I would rate this as a 7/10 Difficulty, and wouldn’t claim Nil unless desperate.  You are really leaving the Queen of Spades and Ace of Clubs up to chance that you do not win.  You are definitely on a tightrope here, but it is do-able under the right circumstances.

Example 2: How Would I make this hand Nil? (Not Bidding First)

bidding nil in spades with a good hand

Here is a hand which I could bid Nil out and feel confident about.

  • The Jack is a relatively high card
  • Having two Hearts this high has a small chance of being a problem
  1. I have plenty of Diamonds and they are low
  2. My highest club a Queen will probably find an easy route to the table, and it has three supporting cards if it doesn’t
  3. We only have two Spades
  4. The four of Hearts could bail me out if needed

I would rate this a 3/10 Difficulty and would run Nil regardless of where I am bidding.  With the right help you may get over your second biggest hurdle in the first two to three moves.

If you don’t succeed in a Nil

Do not continue to play for a Nil, outside of your teammate, do everything you can to ensure the other team does not get their books.

Blind Nil Spades

You are down by a lot and are desperate, but do not be overconfident against them because they may have a legit nil hand.

1996 - infinity. The ringer in every spades tournament.

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